If you were being truthful about account executive training in your agency — you just said, baptism by fire. We hired them and on their first day…took them to a client meeting and it was off to the races. The good ones thrive and survive and the ones who can’t cut it, fade away. But we’re lousy at training new people.
That’s an ugly truth about our business. And it’s not done out of disregard or cruelty. It’s just the reality for small and medium sized advertising (marketing, PR, digital, interactive) agencies. There’s no training program in place and we’re hiring them because we need their boots on the ground. Now.
In our two-day Account Executive Training Bootcamps (check our AE Bootcamp schedule here) we ask the participants to create a list of the top things a client expects of them and the top things the agency owner expects of them.
Guess what — they get it wrong.
No big surprise considering we throw them into client work and usually, if they’re new to the business, they begin managing project details, taking orders and creating a good relationship with the client. So they think that’s at the core of their job responsibilities. Those things are certainly part of the job — but would they be on your list of the top five things you want from your account executive?
I get that you don’t have a developed in-house training program and can’t take the time to create one, let alone implement it. But, if you’re not going to do that — at the very least, take some of these steps.
Send your new/young AE to account executive training: Whether it’s our AE Bootcamp (we’ve been conducting this course for 15+ years) or one put on by another reputable and qualified agency veteran/company — let them work for you for a few months and then ship them off for a couple days of intensive learning, networking and eye-opening.
Assign them an agency mentor: As the agency owner, it should not be you. It’s not that you don’t know your stuff, but you don’t have the time and you aren’t around enough. Explain to your best senior account person what matters most to you (they may be surprised too!) and ask them to teach your new recruit.
Expose them to business thinking: In today’s environment, your clients want their agency partner to help them achieve business goals, not create cute ads or update their Facebook page. So arm your AEs with the knowledge they need to actually participate in discussions about business problems and business solutions. Books, blogs, speakers, webinars — there’s plenty out there, just make sure they understand it’s where you want them to focus.
Reward the behavior you want: Keep an eye out for the new AE who is taking responsibility for keeping themselves educated, who is asking tough questions, who is bringing fresh ideas to the table and who is hungry to help you grow your business. When you see signs like that — run, do not walk, to applaud and encourage that behavior.
We all know how hard it is to find and keep excellent account executives — so invest in them when they’re new and moldable! Really, the investment in account executive training is as much into your agency as it is in that young person you just hired.